Tar Heels in NFL: Sylvester Williams makes season debut, Holcomb returns and Bernard gets more carries

One Tar Heel returned from an injury, another got more carries Sunday because of an injury to his teammate and a third made a huge tackle in his season debut.

Defensive end Sylvester Williams, who the Denver Broncos signed to their practice squad on Oct. 3 after Drew Lock’s injury, was activated and made his season debut. He played seven snaps (12% of the team’s defensive snaps) in their 18-12 victory at New England and tackled quarterback Cam Newton to stop a 2-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter.

This marks a return to Denver, which drafted him in 2013. He started 48 games for the Broncos in four seasons and started for the Super Bowl champions that beat the Carolina Panthers 24-10 on Feb. 7, 2016.

Williams signed with the Tennessee Titans in 2017 and played for the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and the Chargers the last two seasons.

After missing four games with a knee injury, Washington linebacker Cole Holcomb played in its 20-19 road loss to the New York Giants and had five tackles and one assist.

A foot injury to Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon meant Gio Bernard was counted on more during Sunday’s 31-27 loss at Indianapolis. After getting only four carries in the first five games, Bernard had eight rushes for 15 yards and a touchdown, his first score of the season, in addition to three receptions for 13 yards.

Carolina Panthers defensive back Tre Boston had five tackles and three assists in their 23-16 home loss to Chicago in which Mitch Trubisky again didn’t play.

How Tar Heels did in Week 6

PlayerTeamPositionRoster statusTeam’s resultWeek 6 statisticsSeason statistics
Tre BostonPanthersFSActive23-16 loss vs. Chi5 tackles, 3 assists19 tackles; 11 assists, 1 forced, 1 recovered fumble, 1 TFL
Gio BernardBengalsRBActive31-27 loss at Ind8 carries, 15 yards, 1 TD; 3 targets, 3 receptions, 13 yds12 rushes, 29 yards, 1 TD; 9 catches for 115 yards
Eric EbronSteelersTEActive38-7 win vs Cle2 catches on 4 targets for 9 yards, one OPI16 catches for 165 yards and 1 TD
Cole HolcombWashingtonLBActive20-19 loss at NYGStarted, 5 tackles, 1 assist6 tackle, 1 solo tackle, 1 assist, 1 special-teams tackle
Robert QuinnBearsLBActive23-16 win at CarStarted, had 1 assist2 tackles, 1 solo, 1 assist, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovered fumble
Sylvester WilliamsBroncosDLActive18-12 win at NEPlayed 7 snaps; 1 tackle on 2-point conversion try1 tackle on 2-point conversion attempt
M.J. StewartBrownsCBActive38-7 loss at Pit2 special teams tackles4 tackles, 1 solo, 2 special teams tackles
Mack HollinsDolphinsWRActive24-0 win vs. NYJNo statistics1 tackle
Mitch TrubiskyBearsQBActive23-16 win at CarDid not play51-86, 6 TDs, 6 INTs, 87.4 passer rating
Charlie HeckTexansOTActive42-36 OT loss at TenNot active for the gameInactive for all six games
Jason StrowbridgeDolphinsDEActive24-0 win vs. NYJNot active for the gameInactive for all six games
James HurstSaintsOTActiveDidn’t play5 offensive snaps, 6 special-team snaps
Sylvester WilliamsBroncosDLActive18-12 win at NEPlayed 7 snaps; 1 tackle on 2-point conversion tryNo statistics
Andre SmithBillsLBActive26-17 loss vs KCDid not playPlayed in 2 games, no statistics
Ryan SwitzerBrownsWRPractice squad
Aaron CrawfordRavensDTPractice squad
Kareem MartinLionsOLBPractice squad
William Sweet49ersOTPractice squad
T.J. LoganBucsRBInjured reserve; out for season with leg injury
Myles DornVikingsFSInjured reserve
Jalen DaltonSaintsTDInjured reserve; triceps injury
Russell BodineLionsCOpted out

Tar Heels slide to No. 14 in AP poll, the second-largest poll drop in program history

Many questioned if North Carolina deserved the No. 5 ranking in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, even Coach Mack Brown. After a rally fell short Saturday night in Tallahassee, Fla., against unranked Florida State, the stay at that lofty spot was short.

North Carolina fell to No. 14, their lowest position since being ranked No. 18 in the preseason poll.

“As far as our top-five rating, we’re ahead of schedule as a team, our recruiting is going really well, we’re playing hard, but we weren’t the top five team in the country,” UNC coach Mack Brown said Monday. “Part of that was because the Big Ten wasn’t playing yet.”

At nine spots, it’s the second-largest AP poll drop in program history behind only a 10-spot fall in 1939 from No. 7 to No. 17 after a 13-3 defeat at No. 13 Duke.

“If you are the fifth-best team in the country and you want to stay there, play better than your opponent Saturday,” Brown said. “And I told him yesterday we obviously don’t deserve to stay up and the ratings because we didn’t play well.”

UNC fell from No. 7 to No. 13 in the coaches poll.


Largest UNC drops in AP poll during season

10 — From No. 7 to No. 17 after a 13–3 loss at No. 13 Duke on Nov. 18, 1939
9 — From No. 5 to No. 14 after a 31–28 loss at Florida State on Saturday
8 — From No. 6 to No. 14 after a 41–7 loss at Oklahoma on Nov. 1, 1980
8 — From No. 9 to No. 17 after a 20–13 loss at No. 10 Tennessee on Nov. 2, 1946
7 — From No. 6 to No. 13 after a 20–17 loss at No. 24 Virginia on Nov. 16, 1996
7 — From No. 3 to No. 10 after 28–26 loss at No. 13 Maryland on Oct. 29, 1983
7 — From No. 6 to No. 13 after 13–7 loss at LSU on Oct. 22, 1949
6 — From No. 5 to No. 11 after 7–6 loss at Pittsburgh on Sept. 9, 1982

N.C. State, which comes to Kenan Stadium on Saturday for a noon game on ESPN, debuted in the poll at No. 23 after its victory last week over Duke. The Tar Heels are early 18-point favorites.

“N.C. State’s done really well,” Brown said. “I think we’ve been overrated. I think they’ve been underrated.”

News & Observer correspondent Conor O’Neill, formerly of the Winston-Salem Journal, dropped UNC from No. 9 to No. 20 and he voted the Wolfpack No. 19..Jonas Pope IV, the N.C. State beat writer for The N&O, dropped the Tar Heels from No. 5 to No. 15 and he voted the Pack No. 20. Lauren Brownlow of WRALSportsfan.com dropped UNC from No. 8 to No. 16 and she has N.C. State No. 22.

Five voters ranked UNC the highest at No. 11. Ranking the Tar Heels the lowest at No. 23 was David Jablonski of the Dayton Daily News in Ohio.

AP Top 25

RankTeamPV RankConferencePoints
1Clemson (5-0)1ACC1,542 (54)
2Alabama (4-0)2SEC1,494 (8)
3Notre Dame (4-0)4ACC1,337
4Georgia (3-1)3SEC1,300
5Ohio State (0-0)6Big Ten1,223
6Oklahoma State (3-0)7Big 121,137
7Texas A&M (3-1)11SEC1,054
8Penn State (0-0)9Big Ten1,033
9Cincinnati (3-0)8American Athletic1,028
10Florida (2-1)10SEC942
11Miami (FL) (4-1)13ACC887
12Brigham Young (5-0)14IA Independents875
13Oregon (0-0)12Pac-12841
14North Carolina (3-1)5ACC677
14Wisconsin (0-0)16Big Ten677
16SMU (5-0)17American Athletic638
17Iowa State (3-1)20Big 12511
18Michigan (0-0)19Big Ten489
19Virginia Tech (3-1)23ACC411
20Kansas State (3-1)22Big 12399
21Minnesota (0-0)24Big Ten234
22Marshall (4-0)Conference USA227
23North Carolina State (4-1)ACC199
24USC (0-0)25Pac-12192
25Coastal Carolina (4-0)Sun Belt185

Others receiving votes:Memphis 76, Oklahoma 74, Tulsa 58, West Virginia 57, Auburn 48, Iowa 42, Louisiana-Lafayette 40, Liberty 37, Utah 36, UAB 30, Army 29, Arkansas 15, Air Force 14, Kentucky 12, Tennessee 11, Virginia 9, Arizona State 9, Washington 8, South Carolina 8, Indiana 4, Texas 1.

Point values in parentheses indicate the number of first-place votes.

Pool photo by Don Juan Moore

Carolina can’t recover from first-half struggles, runs out of time at Florida State

By R.L. Bynum

There were hints that North Carolina’s young and thin defense had flaws during the first two games of the season. When Virginia Tech scored 31 second-half points last week, it became more apparent but was masked by a productive offensive game.

In Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday night, there was no hiding the No. 5 Tar Heels’ defensive woes after UNC gave up 31 points for the second consecutive half. 

With Carolina’s usually potent offense unable to get going until it was too late in the second half, Florida State (2–3, 1–3 ACC) had its best game of the season in a 31–28 victory over the Tar Heels. A terrific second-half effort from UNC’s defense wasn’t enough.

“The second half is a team we want to be,” UNC coach Mack Brown said. “In fact, that’s the best we probably played as a team all year in the second half and as poorly as we’ve played together in the first half.”

Javonte Williams nearly did it all for UNC (3–1, 3–1), with 119 rushing yards, 67 reception yards and two touchdowns, but he couldn’t catch a fourth-down pass from quarterback Sam Howell with 35 seconds left that could have set up a potential game-tying field goal.

Javonte Williams had 119 yards rushing, 67 reception yards and two touchdowns Saturday.

“We dug ourselves in a huge hole at halftime,” Brown said. “I thought we would come back and settle down and win the game in the second half. We had our opportunities and we turned the momentum.” 

The Tar Heels’ defense shut out FSU in the second half but the 24-point hole was too big to overcome. UNC simply ran out of time to complete what would have been the largest comeback in program history.

“I challenged them at halftime and said you are what you’re going to play like the second half as a team for the rest of the year,” Brown said. “They played as hard as they could possibly play the second half.”

Once the Seminoles knew late in the game that Carolina had to pass, it made it even more of a challenge to protect Howell.

“When you’re one dimensional and have to throw it every time, we’re not great at pass protection. We know that,” Brown said. “That’s why we run the ball so much and have play-action. They were blitzing some and tried to get Sam off his rhythm. When we get one dimensional against really good athletes, we’re not as good.”

Howell finished 20 of 36 for three touchdowns and one interception. He threw for a season-high 374 yards, which was his second-highest total of his career.

Florida State quickly turned a blocked punt into a 23-yard Jordan Travis touchdown run in the first 2:20 of the game. Travis connected with Daniel Preston on a 58-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter to set up a 24-yard Ryan Fitzgerald field goal to put the Noles up 10–0 with 12:59 left in the first half. 

After the Seminoles stopped Williams on a fourth-and-one at the FSU 25, they drove 75 yards in nine plays, with Travis diving in from a yard out for a touchdown. UNC’s next drive ended when Joshua Kaindoh intercepted a dump pass from Howell and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to make it 24–0 with 2:46 left in the first half.

Williams finally got UNC points on a 1-yard run around the right side with 1:02 left in the first half but FSU came right back with a 75-yard, five-play drive. A 12-yard TD pass from Travis to Camren McDonald with 17 seconds left made it 31–7 at halftime.

Needing points badly, Howell couldn’t connect with a heavily covered Dazz Newsome on a throw to the end zone on fourth down after going 74 yards on 10 plays. 

Howell made up for it on the next two drives. He threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Williams and a two-point conversion pass to Walston, then a 33-yard TD pass to Beau Corrales to cut the deficit to 31–21 with a second left in the third quarter. 

Trey Morrison’s interception on the last play of the third quarter gave UNC a golden chance but Grayson Atkins was wide left on a 44-yard field-goal attempt. After making 6 of 7 attempts from 40 to 49 yards and one of two tries from behind 50 yards last season at Furman, he’s missed all three tries of 40 or more yards this season.

Dyami Brown pulled UNC within one score with a 25-yard touchdown reception with 4:58 left.

The Tar Heels try to rebound at home next Saturday against rival N.C. State at noon on either ESPN.

Florida State 31, No. 5 North Carolina 28

Pool photos by Don Juan Moore

Tar Heels’ ‘publicity is ahead of where they are on the field,’ Brown says

By R.L. Bynum

Since the offseason hype started about North Carolina football, Mack Brown has been the rare coach who embraces the high expectations.

Even as the Tar Heels reached No. 5 in the AP poll for the first time since 1997, there still are skeptics about whether they are that good. You can count Brown in that group even as he appreciates the accolades that his team has earned.

He should know because he’s been there before. The last time UNC was No. 5 in the AP poll was in Brown’s final season of his first Chapel Hill stint in 1997. 

“We’ve still got a lot of things that we’ve got to fix. Our publicity is ahead of actually where we are on the field,” Brown said on Wednesday.

The Tar Heels (3–0, 3–0 ACC) are double-digit favorites for their 7:30 game Saturday night at Florida State (0–3, 1–3), their third consecutive game to air on ABC. UNC beat now No. 23 Virginia Tech 56–45 last Saturday.

“I don’t want to take away what they’ve accomplished,” he said. “It’s really hard to win any game. So, I’m really, really proud of them. And, therefore, the voters that are voting think they deserve it, so they deserve it. My point is, we’ve got to play better defense.”\

There are big differences between this year’s team and that 1997 team that ascended to No. 4 on Oct. 18 and finished 11–1. Those Tar Heels were experienced, deep on defense and coming off a 10–2 1996 season that included four consecutive weeks in the AP top 10, three of those in November.

“We had been good for a long time,” Brown said of that 1997 team. “We’re ahead of where I thought we would be at this time. But we don’t have enough experienced and key positions on defense.”

If UNC were to still be undefeated heading into November and still be ranked this high, that would impress Brown a lot more than doing it after only three games. He wonders why there are even rankings this early and applauds the College Football Playoff committee for waiting until Nov. 17 to release its first standings.

“I’m not saying we aren’t deserving. I’m saying let’s look at it at game eight,” said Brown, who calls polls at this time of year “more for hype and media than they are for real. That’s why I think the College Football Playoff started doing theirs late. And I’ve always felt like that’s when it matters.”

At No. 5 in the AP poll, North Carolina’s football program is in rare company with schools that routinely rise to that level such as No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia or No. 4 Notre Dame. Brown points out that those programs can beat any team on any given Saturday.

“People don’t consider us in that group yet,” Brown said. “We haven’t proved that we’re a team that’s ready to line up and win every game every week.”

UNC is committing the second-most penalties in the ACC at 9.7 per game and has the most penalty yards per game in the league at 91.3 yards. Carolina is last in the league in turnovers created and third-to-last in turnover margin per game at -1.

UNC’s Dazz Newsome draws an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty after scoring a touchdown Saturday against Virginia Tech.

Can Carolina win against a good team with the number of penalties they’ve committed each week and the inability to force turnovers? Brown would rather fix those issues than get the answer.

“My job is to make sure they understand if they beat Florida State, it stays,” Brown said of the high ranking. “You don’t win this weekend, life changes fast, and you got to head right back to N.C. State.”

He’s tried to keep his players from letting the No. 5 ranking give them a big head and lead them to forget how they became 3–0. Brown says there are no perfect teams out there, his team included.

“Let’s don’t get up in the clouds and start thinking this stuff’s easy,” Brown said of what he’s told his players. “You got here because of hard work and continue to do it. The higher that number is next to your name, then you become the hunted. Last year, nobody cared about us. Nobody said, ‘Boy, this bunch looks pretty good.’ We slipped up on a bunch of people. That’s not going to happen this year. So, the guys have to understand that.” 

Now is the time for the Tar Heels to prove to their skeptics, and their coach, that they belong in that elite company near the top of the AP poll.

Pool photos by Robert Willett

Tar Heels in NFL: Ebron with five catches, Hurst plays and Trubisky sits

By R.L. Bynum

After an unexpected week off for his Pittsburgh Steelers because of COVID-19, Eric Ebron was back at it Sunday with a season-high five catches for the second consecutive game to highlight the efforts of former UNC players in the NFL in Week 5.

The Steelers tight end’s five catches came on six targets for 43 yards. He fumbled, which the Steelers lost, after a 12-yard fourth-quarter reception. The pass in which quarterback Ben Rothlisberger targeted him that Ebron didn’t catch was initially ruled intercepted but reversed and ruled an incompletion.

The Associated Press wrote last week about how Ebron, played 77% of the Steelers’ offensive snaps, never stops talking and is loud and proud.

This week marked the season debut of New Orleans Saints offensive tackle James Hurst, who was suspended the first four games for violating the NFL’s PED policy. He was put on the active roster Monday.

Hurst played for five offensive snaps and six special-teams snaps. In all five of his offensive snaps, he reported in as tackle eligible and was the Saints’ sixth lineman. Those plays gained a total of 10 yards with one pass incompletion.

Carolina Panthers safety Tre Boston had a tackle, including one for a loss, and two assists in their 23-16 road victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

As expected, the Chicago Bears started Nick Foles at quarterback in their 20-19 victory Thursday over the Tampa Bay Bucs and Mitch Trubisky didn’t play in the game.

How Tar Heels did during Week 5

Streaking Tar Heels leap to No. 5 in AP poll

By R.L. Bynum

Some wondered when North Carolina entered the top 10 in the Associated Press poll last week if the Tar Heels’ rank was a little high. After an impressive victory over Virginia Tech, there are fewer skeptics and more poll voters are taking notice.

UNC jumped three spots and is No. 5 in the latest AP poll released on Sunday after a 56–45 home victory Saturday over the Hokies, who fell two slots to No. 21. The Tar Heels have won their last six games, the longest streak since winning 11 in a row in 2015.

That’s the highest rank in the AP poll since UNC was No. 5 on Oct. 30 and Nov. 8 in 1997, the final season of Coach Mack Brown’s first coaching stint in Chapel Hill.

“It’s fun. It’s good for recruiting it’s good for our fans to do have some bragging rights and we haven’t been rated for a long time,” Brown said Monday. “Really, I’ve always told the players until the college football playoff polls come out probably be in November this year that that’s the first time I even look at the polls.”

The first College Football Playoff rankings don’t come out until Nov. 17. UNC is No. 6 in the coaches poll, up three spots. The Tar Heels are No. 9 in ESPN’s SP+ rankings.

The ACC has three teams in the top 5 for the first time in league history with No. 1 Clemson, No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 5 North Carolina.

Brown likes being in the top 10 “neighborhood” and earning their right to be there.

“We talked to the guys about how we need to buy a house in this neighborhood,” Brown said. “We haven’t been here much. We’ve been visiting the first couple of weeks in the top 10. But that’s like we want to be. But have we earned it yet? And that’s what we talked to them about each week.”

North Carolina coach Mack Brown has the Tar Heels in the top 5 again just like in the last season of his first coaching stint in Chapel Hill.

Two teams ahead of the Tar Heels in last week’s poll lost: Miami (was No. 7 and now No. 13 after a road loss to No. 1 Clemson) and Florida (No. 4 last week but now No. 10 after a 41-38 loss to Texas A&M).

Half the teams ahead of UNC in this week’s poll play each other with No. 3 Georgia visiting No. 2 Alabama. No. 1 Clemson plays at Georgia Tech and No. 4 Notre Dame is at home against Louisville.

All of the North Carolina voters in the panel put UNC in their top 10: Conor O’Neill, a correspondent for The News & Observer, had the Tar Heels No. 9, Jonas Pope IV of The N&O voted UNC No. 5 and Lauren Brownlow of WRALSportsfan.com put UNC at No. 8.

Voting UNC the highest at No. 4 was Brooks Kubena of The Advocate of Baton Rouge, La. Voting the Tar Heels the lowest at No. 12 were Nate Mink of the Syracuse Media Group and Theo Lawson of the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash.

LSU became the first reigning national champion to fall out of the poll in nine years.

The Tar Heels are early 10-point favorites at Florida State on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in a game to be televised by ABC.

Associated Press Top 25

RankTeamPV RankConferencePoints
1Clemson (4-0)1ACC1,546 (59)
2Alabama (3-0)2SEC1,463 (2)
3Georgia (3-0)3SEC1,430 (1)
4Notre Dame (3-0)5ACC1,317
5North Carolina (3-0)8ACC1,190
6Ohio State (0-0)6Big Ten1,152
7Oklahoma State (3-0)10Big 121,069
8Cincinnati (3-0)11American Athletic971
9Penn State (0-0)9Big Ten970
10Florida (2-1)4SEC904
11Texas A&M (2-1)21SEC883
12Oregon (0-0)12Pac-12817
13Miami (3-1)7ACC790
14Auburn (2-1)13SEC703
15Brigham Young (4-0)15IA Independents693
16Wisconsin (0-0)16Big Ten633
17SMU (4-0)18American Athletic522
18Tennessee (2-1)14SEC463
19Michigan (0-0)20Big Ten417
20Iowa State (3-1)24Big 12405
21Louisiana-Lafayette (3-0)23Sun Belt342
22Kansas State (3-1)Big 12302
23Virginia Tech (2-1)19ACC199
24Minnesota (0-0)25Big Ten177
25USC (0-0)Pac-12124

Others receiving votes:Marshall 106, North Carolina State 87, Oklahoma 71, Tulsa 62, UCF 57, Boston College 43, Coastal Carolina 38, UAB 29, Utah 29, Iowa 28, West Virginia 25, Army 21, Memphis 12, Air Force 12, Ole Miss 6, Arizona State 6, Texas 5, Houston 5, LSU 5, Washington 4, Missouri 2, TCU 2, Virginia 2, Louisiana Tech 2, Indiana 1.

Point values in parentheses indicate the number of first place votes.

ACC teams in bold.

Pool photos by Robert Willett

Long passes, Newsome ignite UNC’s offense and Carter, Williams run by Virginia Tech

By R.L. Bynum

Two elements that were missing in No. 8 North Carolina’s first two victories were big elements of the Tar Heels’ most impressive offensive game of the season.

One was Dazz Newsome, an impact receiver, who didn’t make that much of a difference through two games and the other was the lack of receptions on deep passes from sophomore quarterback Sam Howell.

The Tar Heels (3–0, 3–0 ACC) put a big checkmark on both of those Saturday in a 56–45 victory at Kenan Stadium over No. 19 Virginia Tech (2–1, 2–1). But it ultimately was Javonte Williams and Michael Carter complementing that passing success with a relentless rushing attack that helped hold off the Hokies.

“We saw the offense that we can be today when you can run the ball as well as we did today,” UNC coach Mack Brown said. “We know we can throw it. But anytime you can run the ball that well? They ran it really well, but we ran it better than they did. And that was not anticipated coming into the game. So, we’re proud of all the guys on offense that block well for both of our running backs.”

UNC piled up 656 total yards, the most against Virginia Tech since Alabama put up 833 in a 77–6 Hokies loss in 1973. The Tar Heels’ offensive line was good all game, bolstered by getting left guard Joshua Ezeudu back.

North Carolina’s Javonte Williams dashes for a 19-yard touchdown run.

Both UNC running backs scored two touchdowns, with Carter running for 214 yards and Williams for 169 yards, and hit triple-digit yards by midway through the third quarter. They were the first pair of Tar Heels to rush for 100 or more yards in a game since Elijah Hood (220) and T.J. Logan (100) did it against N.C. State in 2015. Carter’s total was the highest since Hood’s effort that day.

“I feel like me and Javonte, we just we feed off each other, literally,” Carter said, adding that when one of them gets a long run, the other talks about wanting to get the next one. “We are competing. It’s always friendly because you know we’re brothers at the end of the day, and we would never let something like a football game come between us.”

Carter all but put the game away with a 62-yard touchdown run with 8:49 left in the game.

“Those are two of the best backs in the country,” Brown said. “They’ve got balance. They’re fast. They’ve got the power and quickness to run inside and the speed to run outside, so they are two of our best weapons. And we know that.”

North Carolina’s Dazz Newsome flipped his statistics from the first two games with a big day Saturday against Virginia Tech.

After Newsome only caught three passes for 31 yards in the first games, he pulled down seven receptions for 69 yards and a 12-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass. He also somersaulted into the end zone on a 6-yard second-quarter touchdown run (above photo).

Dyami Brown not only pulled down the first deep pass receptions of the season, but he made up for two dropped passes with first-half touchdown receptions of 37 and 43 yards.

“I knew that was something that I haven’t gotten the past two weeks,” Dyami Brown said. “But this week, we locked in on it and said we need the deep ball or try to get them short to set up the deep ball.”

Howell did a better job of making quick decisions against Virginia Tech.

“Sam did a good job of being accurate and getting the ball out of his hands quickly,” Mack Brown said. “We did a better job of having some quick stuff ready where he could get it to the guys early. And then Virginia Tech had to come up and then it lets a speedster like Dyami go deep. We’ve got to get the ball more to Dazz because he’s such a good runner.”

UNC went 75 yards in 11 plays over 4:08 to produce a Williams touchdown on the game’s opening drive. The Tar Heels only needed five plays and 1:15 to go 83 yards for Howell’s first TD pass to Brown on the second drive. Williams scored on a 19-yard touchdown run on the third drive, which went 66 yards on seven plays in 2:25.

UNC quarterback Sam Howell completed 18 of 23 passes for three touchdowns and a 215.2 passer ratings while going without an interception.

Virginia Tech finally got its initial first down late in the first quarter on a drive that led to a 1-yard touchdown run by tight end James Mitchell in the first minute of the second quarter, capping an 11-play, 75-yard drive. After a 3-and-out, the Hokies drove 70 yards in 9 plays to an 8-yard touchdown run by Khalil Herbert to trim UNC’s lead to 21–14.

UNC finally answered with a scoring drive entirely on the ground of five plays and 75 yards that ended with Newsome’s TD run to make it 28–14.

A penalty led Virginia Tech to have a touchdown pass called back, and it had to settle for a 55-yard field goal from Brian Johnson on the first drive of the second half.

UNC came back with a 6-play, 75-yard drive in 2:41, capped by a 16-yard scoring run from Carter.

After Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker scored on a 5-yard touchdown run, the Hokies recovered an onside kick with 5:56 left in the third quarter. On third down, running back Herbert, who led the nation in rushing coming into the game at 155.5 yards per game, scampered 52 yards for a touchdown. 

After a UNC 3-and-out, Hooker connected with wide receiver Tayvion Robinson on a 33-yard touchdown pass to cut UNC’s lead to 42–37 in the final minute of the third quarter, but failed to convert a two-point try.

Newsome’s second touchdown, the 12-yard pass reception, pushed the lead to 49-37 with 12:37 left.

The Hokies cut the lead to 56–45 with 5:20 left on a 26-yard Hooker-to-Mitchell touchdown pass and a Hooker two-point conversion run.

The Tar Heels, tied for first place in the ACC with No. 1 Clemson, visit Florida State (0–3, 1–3) next Saturday at 7 p.m. in a game to be televised on ESPN.

No. 8 North Carolina 56, No. 19 Virginia Tech 45

Pool photos by Robert Willett

Tar Heels in NFL: Trubisky doesn’t play and Bears lose first game

By R.L. Bynum

The big news for former Tar Heels in the NFL this week was what didn’t happen.

After the Chicago Bears went 3-0 in three starts for quarterback Mitch Trubisky, he didn’t start. And, with Nick Foles instead starting Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, the Bears didn’t win.

Trubisky had six touchdown passes on the season before being pulled in the third quarter of Chicago’s 30-26 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Foles relieved Trubisky and threw three touchdown passes to rally the Bears.

In Sunday’s 19-11 loss to the Colts, Foles only had one touchdown pass to go with one interception.

In his three starts, Trubisky had an 87.4 passer rating. Foles’ rating for Sunday’s loss was 76.4. In the win over the Falcons, Trubisky’s rating was 71.8 and Foles’ rating was 95.2.

Who gets the start for Chicago at home Thursday against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs? It figures to be Foles, but who knows?

There was good news for a Tar Heel last week when the Cleveland Browns signed wide receiver Ryan Switzer to their practice squad. The Pittsburgh Steelers released Switzer on Sept. 5.

Steelers tight end Eric Ebron didn’t get the chance to follow up on his big Week 3 game against the Houston Texans because their game with the Tennessee Titans was postponed until Week 7 on Oct. 25.

Not much happened on the field this week for former Tar Heels, highlighted by Tre Boston’s three tackles, one assist and a recovered fumble in the Carolina Panthers’ 31-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Heading into that game, Tre Boston talked to the media about the success of him and the Panthers:

Tar Heels in the NFL

Tar Heels rise to No. 8 in AP football poll

By R.L. Bynum

North Carolina’s 26-22 victory over Boston College may not have been overly impressive, but it was enough to move the Tar Heels up four spots to No. 8 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday afternoon.

It’s the first time in the top 10 since UNC (2-0), which was No. 12 last week, was No. 10 heading into the 2015 bowl loss to Baylor. It’s the Tar Heels’ highest ranking since it was No. 8 before their loss to Clemson in the 2015 ACC championship game.

Carolina is part of history since this is the first week in poll history that four ACC teams have made AP’s top 10. Clemson remained at No. 1, Notre Dame is No. 5 and Miami is No. 7.

In the coaches poll, the Tar Heels are No. 9.

Three teams ahead of Carolina in last week’s poll lost: Auburn (No. 7 last week but No. 13 this week; the Tigers got blown out by No. 4 Georgia), Texas (No. 9 last week but No. 22 this week; the Longhorns fell 33-31 to TCU) and Central Florida (No. 11 last week but unranked this week after a 34-26 defeat against Tulsa). The team that was just behind UNC in last week’s poll also lost: Texas A&M (No. 13 last week but No. 21 this week after getting throttled by No. 2 Alabama 52-24).

Carolina is likely to fall as more AP voters start including Big Ten and Pac-12 teams in the coming weeks.

Ranking the Tar Heels the highest at No. 7 were Tom Green of the Alabama Media Group, Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman and Brooks Kubena of The Advocate. Michael Lev of the Arizona Daily Star ranked UNC the lowest at No. 25 and was the only voter ranking the Tar Heels lower than No. 15.

Two of the three North Carolina media members voting in the poll had UNC in the top 10: Conor O’Neill, the former Winston-Salem Journal writer now working as a correspondent for McClatchy’s North Carolina newspapers, put UNC No. 10 and Jonas Pope IV of The N&O voted Carolina No. 9. Lauren Brownlow of WRAL Sports Fan voted UNC No. 11.

At noon on Saturday at Kenan Stadium, UNC faces Virginia Tech (2-0). The Hokies debuted in the poll at No. 19.

AP Top 25

1Clemson (3-0)1ACC1,536 (52)
2Alabama (2-0)2SEC1,488 (8)
3Georgia (2-0)4SEC1,380
4Florida (2-0)3SEC1,340
5Notre Dame (2-0)5ACC1,239
6Ohio State (0-0)6Big Ten1,165 (2)
7Miami (3-0)8ACC1,148
8North Carolina (2-0)12ACC944
9Penn State (0-0)10Big Ten935
10Oklahoma State (3-0)17Big 12919
11Cincinnati (3-0)15American Athletic895
12Oregon (0-0)14Pac-12786
13Auburn (1-1)7SEC731
14Tennessee (2-0)21SEC717
15Brigham Young (3-0)22IA Independents661
16Wisconsin (0-0)19Big Ten619
17LSU (1-1)20SEC478
18SMU (4-0)American Athletic393
19Virginia Tech (2-0)ACC391
20Michigan (0-0)23Big Ten350
21Texas A&M (1-1)13SEC330
22Texas (2-1)9Big 12228
23Louisiana-Lafayette (3-0)Sun Belt216
24Iowa State (2-1)Big 12215
25Minnesota (0-0)Big Ten145

Others receiving votes: Kansas State 142, USC 115, Mississippi State 112, UCF 112, TCU 97, Marshall 49, Tulsa 46, Utah 30, Iowa 26, Coastal Carolina 25, Oklahoma 20, North Carolina State 18, Ole Miss 18, UAB 15, Army 14, West Virginia 13, Memphis 12, Arkansas 11, Pittsburgh 7, Virginia 5, Arizona State 5, Washington 4, Air Force 4, Indiana 1.

Point values in parentheses indicate the number of first place votes.

ACC teams in bold.

Pool photo by John Quackenbos/Boston College Athletics

Howell gives UNC a different dimension on offense with his running threat, which he shows off in win at BC

By R.L. Bynum

The feet on one Tar Heel are making a more significant impact on games than last season.

They would be the feet of Sam Howell, North Carolina’s sophomore quarterback, who couldn’t take his chances on running that much last season because of the Tar Heels’ depleted quarterback depth.

A stronger Howell is taking advantage of his chances to run, and that helped push No. 12 UNC to 2-0 with a 26–22 victory Saturday at Boston College. UNC held on after some costly mistakes made it closer.

“Definitely, when I see space, I want to take advantage of that,” Howell said. “I feel like a lot of teams don’t really account for me as a runner. So, there’s a lot of space out there. Whenever I can take advantage of the space they give me, I try to.” 

Trey Morrison helped put the game away when he returned an interception on a potential game-tying two-point conversion pass 99 yards to add two UNC points in the game’s final minute. 

“I was reading to the field side and I didn’t see anything come that way,” Morrison said. “I saw the quarterback go to the boundary. I saw the running back flare out, and I just saw the ball in the air, and I went to go get it.” 

BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec had just connected with C.J. Lewis on a 2-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds left to pull within two points. Chazz Surratt sealed the win by recovering the ensuing onside kick.

After rushing for only 35 yards last season, Howell had five runs of six yards or more, including a 20-yard play, against BC. All but one of those were on third-down scrambles.

But it’s the threat of the run that gives opposing defenses something else to think about that is giving the Tar Heels’ offense another dimension. 

Opponents can’t just worry about covering UNC’s talented receivers. They have to deal with the possibility that Howell will make a run for it, as well as his ability to extend plays. As if trying to stop Javonte Williams and Michael Carter wasn’t enough to defend on the ground.

Carter ran for 121 yards and Williams added 57 and one touchdown as Carolina outrushed BC 176–40.

“I was probably more impressed with Sam making plays with his feet than ever before,” UNC coach Mack Brown said. “He did some of that in the bowl game, but he made some huge plays tonight with his feet that’s really going to help us.” 

There was no better example than late in the first half when he was scrambling to make a play. While straddling the line of scrimmage, he threw a short pass right in stride to Williams on a 41-yard scoring play.

“When I saw him scramble, I just tried to get open,” Williams said. “When I caught it, I was wide open.”

There were times when Howell’s desire to extend plays got him into trouble and he kept the ball for too long when he’d have been better advised to throw the ball away or take a sack. In one case early in the second half, Williams bailed him out by recovering Howell’s fumble after being pressured.

Howell threw two touchdown passes to give him 41 in only 15 games, already tied for the fifth-most career TD passes in Carolina program history with Mitch Trubisky (2014–16). Fourth on the list with 58 in 45 games over four seasons is T.J. Yates (2007–10).

Howell finished 14 of 26 for 225 yards and one interception for a 144.2 passer rating.

It was another big game for UNC’s defense, which has given up 28 points through two games, the fewest against FBS teams since allowing 27 in 2009 to Connecticut and East Carolina. Surratt led the way with eight tackles (all solo) and one sack in addition to breaking up a pass and hurrying the quarterback once. Don Chapman added seven tackles (also solo).

UNC scored on both first-quarter drives.

Howell’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Khafre Brown completed a 12-play, 83-yard, 4:13 drive on UNC’s first possession to put the Tar Heels ahead 7-0 with 7:35 left in the first quarter. The Tar Heels went 3-of-3 on third downs in that drive.

UNC was efficient again with a 6-play, 48-yard, 2:24 drive that produced a 1-yard touchdown run by Williams with 1:21 left in the first quarter.

After Morrison’s big hit kept B.C.’s Hunter Long from making a catch, the Eagles settled for a 35-yard Aaron Boumerhi field goal with 3:46 left in the opening quarter. After another drop by Long early in the second quarter, Boumerhi booted a 27-yard field goal. He added a 30-yard field goal on the final first-half play to cut UNC’s lead to 21-16.

Morrison said that it appeared that Long was wary of another big hit after that crushing first-quarter blow led to him getting medical attention.

“I do feel that hit kind of did that,” Morrison said. “Every time he was running across the middle, he was looking. He was looking more.”

Cornerback Brandon Sebastian intercepted a deflected Howell pass to give BC the ball at the UNC 5. Three plays later, Jurkovec threw a 5-yard scoring pass to running back David Bailey to cut the Tar Heels’ lead 14-13 with 11:35 left in the first half.

Graduate transfer Grayson Atkins’ 35-yard field goal padded UNC’s lead with 2:32 left in the third quarter. He missed wide left on a 47-yard attempt with 5:46 remaining in the game that might have eliminated the last-minute drama.

“I knew it was gonna be a hard-fought game,” Brown said. “We had chances that we could have pulled away. Give them credit. We didn’t. They’ve got good players too; that’s why we play these games. It’s the team that plays the best that day. And today we were better than they were.”

Carolina returns home next Saturday for a noon game against Virginia Tech (2–0), which won 38–31 at Duke (0–4) on Saturday.

No. 12 North Carolina 26, Boston College 22

Pool photos by John Quackenbos/Boston College Athletics